Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

(NOTE: I wrote this article last week when SKLZ hit $2.16. It was just published in Seek Alpha today. Of course it belongs in my blog, too. :)

SUMMARY

  • People like to bet. Skillz lets people legally bet on their video game play and win money. It’s an entirely new form of entertainment and growing like crazy.
  • In this volatile market, the SKLZ stock has suffered about a 95% drop in value and is now trading at “going-out-of-business” levels.
  • But Skillz is not going out of business. They have created valuable assets and their cash burn can be cut quickly (which has already started).
  • Skillz’s upcoming NFL deal merges two strong money-making themes — betting and playing video football games — and is a strong driver of future earnings.

A Strong Buy.

American Football Action
Thesis

Skillz (NYSE:SKLZ) is woefully misunderstood and undervalued. There, I said it, someone had to.

Misunderstood because investors think it’s a video game company, when it’s actually much more than that. It’s also an enterprise software company… and a legal bookmaker for video games.

Undervalued because investors think the company will run out of money and are pricing it at near-cash levels. But an analysis of their cash burn, combined with operating statements made by the company during their recent earnings announcement and Investor Day calls, suggests otherwise.

Fall From Grace

Skillz has had a painful decline, culminating in a dramatic fall the day after announcing Q4 2021 earnings, crashing just under 20%, but at one point heading to a 40% shellacking.

Sure, it’s not just SKLZ that has felt the pain. The whole market is down, with Nasdaq entering bear territory in early March. Gone are the days of easy money, where the market was handsomely rewarding “growth at any cost.” As long as you were continuing to grow, your stock kept appreciating and if you ran out of money, you just floated a secondary offering at your elevated stock prices and, voila, the market gave you more money.

Maybe it was the end of the trillion dollar giveaways reducing liquidity in the market; or maybe it was rising deficits and oil and inflation and interest rates; or maybe it was bombs dropping on Ukraine and Russia receiving sanctions that inevitably will send ripples through the world’s economy, but the market changed in Q1, and “growth at any cost” was now replaced with, “you better have everything you need to survive because you ain’t gettin’ anything more from us.”

The market doesn’t think so right now, but Skillz is one of the companies that has everything it needs to survive… and thrive.

Why This Company Is Special

Most investors think of Skillz as a video game company, and they do have several in-house games, but they are much more than this. Their primary focus is to provide an enterprise gaming platform for other software game developers. Making a game isn’t easy. But the technical requirements to create a scalable enterprise gaming platform – one that handles billions of games per year – goes way beyond simple game construction. Big barriers-to-entry here.

Further, the enterprise gaming platform that they’ve built has an innovative business model. Advertising networks created a massive digital ad industry arbitraging between a buyer and seller of digital ads. Likewise, Skillz acts as an intermediary between two similarly-skilled players in a video game competition and takes a percentage of their “entry” fees.

Said another way, Skillz allows two players to bet each other… with Skills acting as the “house”… a.k.a., the “bookie.” And as it turns out, there is more upside to being a bookmaker in this particular market than may meet the eye. Imagine an enterprise software company that figured out how to become THE bookmaker for the ENTIRE video game world. That’s Skillz.

Online Competition Content Much Larger Than Offline

While traditional sportsbooks allow you to bet on football, basketball, soccer, and maybe a handful of other physical-world sports, Skillz is the bookmaker for potentially every video game in the world. The content for their potential market dwarfs what a traditional sportsbook can ever hope to address.

For example, you might be familiar with a new game causing quite a sensation called Wordle. It didn’t exist several months ago. But now it has millions of players. It’s a game that was created out of digital bits & bytes, i.e., thin airthin air. And it’s only a matter of time when, with Skillz, you’ll be able to bet someone you can solve the secret word in fewer guesses than them.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, though, hit video games are created all the time. But when was the last time a new physical sport was created that you could wager on? Not for a while. Skillz is the only betting game in town that has the potential to take advantage of an ever-expanding universe of digital content.

What Everyone Missed From The Conference Call

One of the two most important statements in Skillz’s most recent conference call wasn’t when the company said they had a lot of money in the bank (gross almost three-fourths of a billion dollars); or solid revenues, almost $109 million for the quarter, up 61% from last year; or 610,000 paying players, up 56% from last year.

It was when the company said… and we’ve been listening to your feedback. Andrew Paradise, CEO, attributed this to shareholders. Maybe. But we also all know it was pretty hard not to hear the market crushing the life out of the stock price, too. Regardless, he continued with a welcomed statement for any public company operating today: “… we will transition from our strategy of revenue growth at all costs to increasing profitable growth and efficiency.

And the second most important statement… the one that everyone seems to have missed? Casey Chafkin, CRO, saying in context to reducing marketing spend, “… the result of that is going to be, and already is…”. That is, that the transition away from “growth at all costs” has already begun.

But can they really turn on a dime? Those that run businesses know they can. Because unlike headcount, facilities, or equipment costs – areas that are hard to cut and where it takes time to see savings – 73% of their 2021 costs were attributed to “Sales and marketing”… and many of these costs are straightforward to turn off.

You literally say, “stop,” and they simply stop. Chafkin even confirmed that on their March 15th Investor Day webcast.

Further, Skillz shared their exact new user acquisition costs for Q4 2021, $85.6 million. Compare that to their reported $99.0 million loss for the quarter. Knowing the bulk of this spending was ineffective and is now being cut, imagine what Q4 earnings could have looked like if they started cutting last quarter. Revenue would not have been impacted much, but instead of a ($0.25) per share loss – with a ($0.10) expectation miss – it might have been a $0.10 beat… and optically more important, a ($0.05) loss would have seemed tantalizingly near breakeven. That’s hardly a company going out of business.

Actually, that would be a company way ahead of plan.

A snippet of SKLZ P&L statement from their Q4 2021 Earnings Press Release.
Net Loss would have looked quite different if ineffective new user acquisition costs weren’t a part of the Sales and Marketing expense line. (Source: Skillz Q4 2021 Earnings Press Release)

Since Chafkin also confirmed in the Investor Day Q&A that the actual cutting started in early Feb, we now could see up to a $40 million savings, or up to a $0.10 per share beat in Q1 2022 results, too. That would be a nice surprise for a stock that could use a nice surprise.

Driving Future Earnings: The NFL
Actual screenshots from one of the new NFL games.
A winning combination: Betting and playing mobile football games. (Source: Actual screenshots from one of the new NFL games that is betting-enabled via Skillz.)

It’s no secret that people like to bet on football. And it’s also no secret that people like to play football video games like Madden. Capitalizing on these, SKLZ has forged a partnership with none other than the NFL and are working with game developers to create NFL-branded football games that let you bet your opponent. Seriously, can you think of a more perfect union than playing NFL video games and betting?

I know many have reported on this strategic partnership but not in this way: That this is an incredibly compelling betting proposition. Betting will go together with video football games like, well, real football and betting.

(Hot-Off-The-Presses: Skillz is offering a sneak peak of all of their NFL-branded games at the 36th Annual Game Developers Conference Mar 23-25. Just an FYI for those that might not believe these are real.)

All Bookies Are Not Created Equal

Thinking about SKLZ as a bookmaker invites new valuation comparisons. One of the monster sportsbooks is DraftKings (DKNG). Both DraftKings and Skillz are online bookmakers. But one takes book for physical-world games, the other for digital games. And while DKNG has about 3x the revenues – and only about 2x the cash – DKNG is valued about 7x greater than SKLZ.

This suggests that either DKNG is trading over twice what it should be or SKLZ is trading at less than half. Given DKNG has more than 3x the analyst coverage, it’s more likely they’re better understood and it is SKLZ’s valuation that’s amiss by half. But I don’t think this is a fair comparison because Skillz has material advantages over DraftKings. DKNG has limited physical-world gaming content they can monetize, while SKLZ’s has virtually unlimited content potential.

Both may be considered bookmakers, but DKNG’s action is considering gambling and thus they have vastly more regulatory requirements and legal expenses. However, SKLZ’s action is not considered gambling, so Skillz doesn’t bear those costs, a significant advantage.

And DraftKings has tons of competition. They have to spend heavily to get into a market and heavily to protect it. Skillz has zero competitors, they invented their market. An awesome – and rare – advantage in business. So comparing SKLZ to DKNG might provide an initial valuation adjustment, but the more you dig into the business details, the better SKLZ looks. Translation: SKLZ shouldn’t be trading at less than half the sales multiple of DKNG, it should be trading higher than DKNG’s sales multiple.

Did SKLZ Really Guide Revenue Downward?

Skillz guided 2022 revenue downward, from $550 million to $400 million. Seems to me, though, they were being extra conservative. Even with no new customers, the company – with just its existing player base – is on a $435 million run rate.

And, per the conference call, they’re working on improving existing player environment and social features. That’s company speak for getting more money out of each player. Typically they could see a 50% lift from these kinds of activities – in fact, SKLZ actually bought one of the domain experts in this space: Aarki, so it’s pretty conservative to project a small 10-15% bump to ARPPU (Average Revenue Per Playing User). That would jump revenues to about $480 million to $500 million.

And, as the company pointed out multiple times during their Investor Day, their guidance does not include the upcoming new NFL games. We can use existing data to help us project future potential here. Just three games accounted for almost 80% of SKLZ revenues in early 2021, or nearly an average of 27% each. It’s important to note that these games do not have household brand names… like the NFL has. So it’s not unreasonable for SKLZ’s NFL games to achieve at least a similar average acceptance within the Skillz player base. As such, and factoring in about half-a-year of contribution, betting on NFL video games could add another 10%-15% to the top line, which pushes potential 2022 revenues to a $525-$565 million range. Right back to the initial forecast, eh?

Yes, there will be some existing player churn. But not included in the analysis above are any additional players SKLZ brings on due to the NFL helping to promote. The NFL has a really BIG megaphone, so of course Skillz will see new players… in fact, the numbers could actually rip much higher. What I think the analysis above says, though, is even looking at it pretty conservatively, their 2022 revenues could still be closer to $550 million than $400 million. Which of course no one is now anticipating.

Revising Misunderstood Price Targets

A few analysts lowered the price targets for SKLZ after their earnings call. The low is now $2.50. My range is $9.00-$12.00. This may be disappointing to those that purchased at higher levels but please know I think this is just over the next six months, so SKLZ will go higher as the company continues to prove it can execute along its new path. And, at least in the short term, it’s a nice opportunity for everyone else. I get to my range by adjusting SKLZ sales multiple to that of DKNG, increasing by 50% to reflect my higher 2022 revenue estimate, and noting that SKLZ’s short % of near 20% is scary high… which inevitably means overshooting when everyone rushes in to cover.

Risks

I think Skillz has been misguided in their big picture customer acquisition strategy. I believe it would be more effective if they spent less time trying to acquire individual players and more time trying to acquire gaming partners and require them to market to their individual players. After all, money is flowing to their partners.

I know many investors may want me to claim that Skillz’s recent $300 million debt financing was misguided as well. After all, it was taken at an eyebrow-raising 10.25% rate. But given that the secondary market has now slammed shut, it feels more like management had a bit of foresight to sock away some extra $’s. With interest rates on the rise, who knows, we might look back and think the money is not all that expensive after all. Don’t forget, with the way they’re now operating the company, they may just surprise everyone and pay it back early.

Churn always worries me. It’s usually bigger for non-betting app games, but smaller for betting games like casino slots and such. If it’s close to the betting norm (1-2%), then I’m less worried.

The real lingering uncertainties I have revolve around the NFL. Are the new NFL games fun and competitive? And what is the business relationship with the NFL? Do the economics allow SKLZ to make a healthy profit; or did they have to sell their soul?

I’m actually OK with the first uncertainty because there are a lot of popular football games to serve as models… and I believe the added, all-important betting component will prove irresistible. People just like to bet on football and play football video games. I am worried about the second uncertainty, though. Having negotiated a partnership agreement with a professional sports franchise in the past, I know they can be quite one-sided. Since the NFL games are the key to the future, bad NFL economics could slow that future down.

Final Thoughts
Skillz corporate values
Skillz Corporate Values (Source: Skillz “About Us” )

Many investors are wondering if SKLZ can turn things around. Here’s something interesting to consider: Skillz actually has the word “frugality” in its corporate values statement. This should give all investors an idea of what kind of guy Paradise is… because that’s not a very glamorous word (i.e., who wants to work for a frugal company?). So if he put it in such a visible place as the “About Us,” it’s genuine. I’ll go even farther and say running a tight ship is in the CEO’s wheelhouse… because he’s a repeat, successful entrepreneur, so none of this is new to him.

So I don’t think the company is going to run out of money like most analysts think, which, ultimately, has created the opportunity here. From trading at about 50x sales about a year ago, SKLZ is now trading at near gross cash levels. What that says is the market is valuing all the rest of the stuff in this enterprise software company – a proven model, scalable, sophisticated technology and infrastructure, an established base of paying players, great multi-year growth, an achievable path to profitability, and a deal with the all-powerful NFL that is also sure to attract other top brands – at just about nothing.

Honestly, at these levels, and with these assets, I don’t know why some enterprise, gaming, or sportsbook outfit is just not trying to acquire them… in the same way I scratched my head that no one picked up Apple when its stock was depressed in 1996. And we all know how AAPL eventually did.

The CEO uses more acceptable language when describing the mission he’s on: To become the “competition layer” of the Internet. That’s fancy but I think investors might like my description even better: To become the bookmaker for every video game on the planet.

That sounds less like a bet and more like a winning investment.

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Kevin Durant came back from a calf injury in Game 5 of the NBA Championship… only to rupture his Achilles Tendon.

I agree with the popular opinion:  Tragic.

I also agree with the other popular opinion:  What a fighter… a warrior!

Having KD in there was awesome.  Easy to tell with his offense.  But I thought the real advantage was his defense.  The Raptors, who have been driving to the basket with regularity, couldn’t get around KD’s speed & massive wingspan.  Indeed, it was clear the Warrior defense simply played at a different level with KD in there.

But, I may be the only one to have some additional, random odd thoughts about this as well:

  • Did anyone else feel guilty because we all secretly wanted KD to play, and all secretly thought the calf injury couldn’t be that bad?  I certainly was feeling guilty… and the press was no help.  But then I thought about it:  I was told it was a calf injury… which is certainly surmountable with a full 30 days of professional physical therapy.  If we were told it wasn’t actually a calf injury but it affected the Achilles, too, I am positive there’s not a single person that would have expected him to play.  So I don’t want to feel guilty for rooting for a terrific player to come back given the information we were given.
  • Did anyone see that massive ice pack they put around KD’s calf when he first came out of the game?  I originally thought, “uh, oh, that can’t be good.”  And then I thought about it… and decided that was smart to keep any swelling down.  Now that I think about it, though, it also froze all the muscles and ligaments… which could have contributed to making the Achilles vulnerable.  I wonder if any physical therapists are rethinking that strategy today?
  • Steve Kerr is obviously brilliant.  But, I wonder why he didn’t rest KD longer during the game?  The Warriors seemed like they had things in hand… and, after all, KD hadn’t played for 30 days, you would think he would have wanted to play him sparingly… ?
  • Final odd thought:  When he torn his Achilles, he simply let go of the ball… which resulted in an easy layup for Raptors.  For an athlete of the top caliber as KD, you would think he would have at least tried to call a time out… or try to pass the ball to a teammate in some way.  Remember when 49er NaVorro Bowan suffered a hugely painful — gruesome — knee injury against the Seahawks?  As he was writhing in pain, he still had the professional presence of mind to search for the ball — while flat on his back — and secure it.  It was one of the bravest moments I’ve ever seen in sports.  I kinda feel like KD could have… or maybe should have?… done something like that, too.

 

OK, enough odd thoughts.  I sincerely hope Kevin Durant heals fully and quickly, he absolutely deserves it.

And, among the many reasons why I want the Warriors to win, now chief among them is to get a ring for KD!  He absolutely deserves that, too.

I can’t tell if the flag has “codes” or not.

We appear to have them, but then I’ve also read where the Supreme Court overturned Flag Codes as unconstitutional a few years after the Pledge of Allegiance was deemed a violation of religious freedom, at least for non-military personnel.

Regardless, there are some things that I do know:

*  Kneeling is considered to be one of the most respectful acts in the world.

*  Colin Kaepernick’s protest was passive and peaceful, exactly what we all want to see in a protest.  He didn’t overturn any cars.  He didn’t bash the front windows of shop keepers.  He didn’t use hateful language.  He was just one guy in a sea of guys and all he did was kneel instead of stand.

*  There are lots of violations of Flag Codes that seem to go unmentioned, including the flag used in advertising (Section 8.i… there goes all the 4th of July marketing!) and the most ironic:  “The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.”  (Section 8.c)  So everyone in a football stadium standing to respect the giant, HORIZONTAL flag covering the field is, in fact, disrespecting the flag.  The Kaep anger, in context, seems a bit hypocritical, no?

*  The NFL didn’t even require players to come out for the National Anthem until 2009, so it’s not like it was a long-standing traditional (pun intended!).

…AND…

I also know — as an employer — employees shouldn’t be doing personal things on company time.

So, ultimately, I don’t know why there’s a controversy.

If Colin Kaepernick — or any other American — wants to protest something… a freedom that we’ve fought wars over to protect… they should be allowed to do it peacefully… on their own time.

If they want to do it on company time, though, and what they’re protesting is not part of the job description, then they have the freedom to not do that job.

The NFL should have outlawed political expression after Week 3 of Kaepernick’s protest a few years back… in the same way they outlawed commercial expression in the 80’s… and it was a good thing they did, else every NFL player would look like a walking advertising billboard by now.

So maybe what everyone should really be upset about is why Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, makes $40 million a year and can’t even put out a simple camp fire in his own backyard.

I’m a big Jimmy G. fan… as is everyone in the Bay Area.

However, I can remember being a big Colin Kaepernick fan as well… as it seemed everyone was in the Bay Area, too.

And why not?  Kaep ran wild against the mighty Packers in a playoff game.  He — single-handedly — was reinventing the quarterback position.  He brought us to Conference Championships and even the first Super Bowl in many years… came within a whisper of winning it, too.

I even remember a friend posing the ultimate question:  “Would you rather have an aging Aaron Rodgers leading your team into the future… or a fresh disruptor like Kaep?”  I remember at the time it feeling very much like a toss up.  Rodgers already had one MVP under his belt, but it is impossibly to deny that we were all still punch-drunk with Kaep’s u-n-l-i-m-i-t-e-d  p-o-t-e-n-t-i-a-l.

So, when everyone asks, “what could possibly go wrong with making Jimmy G. the highest-paid football player in the league after only starting seven games?!” it’s hard not to think we were all feeling just as giddy about Kaep at one point…

… a feeling that seemed to go away as fast as it came.

P.S.  With that said, I want to say for the record that I was one of the fans at this year’s incredible Niners-Titans game screaming, “Let Jimmy kick!  Let Jimmy play D!  Let Jimmy coach!”  Certainly seems like he can do anything he puts his mind to on a football field.  :)

Last year the Golden State Warriors had a commanding 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers…

… and then Klay Thompson insultingly wore a freakin’ Dodger cap to AT&T Park and never apologized and the next thing you know the Cavs beat the Warriors 4-3.

This year the Golden State Warriors had a commanding 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers…

… and then Klay Thompson had the good sense NOT to wear anything remotely looking like freakin’ Dodger blue… and, guess what?

The Warriors win the 2017 NBA Championship!

Coincidence?  As they say… ahem… “I THINK NOT!”

Congrats to all Warriors and Warrior fans!

2017 Warriors Win!

On Friday, May 12th, the Giants were the worst team in the Major Leagues.

That all changed with their HUGE 17 inning win that night against the Cincinnati Reds.

I was there for all 17 innings.  In fact, in a rarity, I was at the game about an hour early… so that’s about 6.5 hours of baseball for me!

By the end of the game… which ended just before 1am… there were only a couple dozen of us left in the park… you can see my picture of Buster Posey being greeted by his teammates after his game-ending homerun in the bottom of the 17th on the jumbotron… not a single soul in the bleechers.

From worst to first.  You heard it here… first.

SF Giants 17 inning win!

I believe the Giants had a season-changing win last night.

A young (almost) rookie Ty Blach will pitch against Mr. Universe Clayton Kershaw tonight.  This will tell us if its season changing or not.

For those that follow this blog, I thought Giants Skipper Bruce Bochy really mismanaged (blew!) the last two months of the 2016 season, including the last playoff game that could have sent the Giants to the World Series…

… and there’s no way the Cleveland Indians were going to beat the Giants in the World Series… the “even year” mojo would have been ON… ’10, ’12, ’14, AND ’16.

One of the many solutions open to Bochy last year was to put Ty Blach in the bullpen.  He didn’t.  And the Giants lost.

Tonight’s game is a reasonable proxy to see how this strategy would have worked.

Please stay tuned.

UPDATE:  The strategy would have worked GREAT!  Ty gave up 1 hit in 3 innings!  THAT would have taken us to the World Series… and beyond.

That also shows something else:  That Bochy’s “platooning” strategy of mathematically matching pitcher to hitter has big flaws.  The axiom in sports has ALWAYS been:  If someone has a hot hand, don’t take them out… let them play.

It’s just flat out weird that someone as experienced as Bochy doesn’t get that.

For the game, the Giants lost 2-1 but Blach pitched admirably well.  He gave up 4 hits and 2 runs in 5 innings… biggest issue was he’s been training as a reliever, not a starter, so apparently Bochy was concerned about arm strength/stamina/injury.

Welcome to the starting rotation, Ty!

Readers know I’m not so happy with Klay Thompson.  Common sense dictates wearing a f***ing Dodger hat to a Giants game is simply out-of-bounds.  The Cavs have had the Warriors number ever since.

But, over the weekend, I spoke to an in-the-know Warriors exec.  I, of course, voiced my Klay Thompson outrage… and he said, “you know, he got taken to task by the other players pretty good for that one.”

That is not the same thing as an apology.  But it’s nice to know the Warrior players (unlike Warrior management) care enough about their SF Giant fanbase to police their own on this one.

And, somehow, the fog that Thompson cast upon the Warriors magically started to lift:  Warriors 126 Cavs 91.

Still waiting for an apology… most likely will be waiting forever… but it’s a start.

Coincidence?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

P.S.  Thompson had just 2 points at half time in the home opener.  Klay, please, you’re a classy guy, there’s still time to apologize to we Giants fans that support the Warriors, too.

UPDATE:  The Warriors won the next game.  I still stand behind the spirit of my post.

It’s hard to be a fan.  It’s a tremendous amount of time and emotional energy.

It’s particularly hard to be a fan — after spending a tremendous amount of time and emotional energy — having to watch a manager make the same mistakes over and over and over.

That happened tonight… my San Francisco Giants were eliminated from the baseball playoffs… because of INSANE bullpen management by Bruce Bochy…

… the same INSANE bullpen management style that made the Giants nearly the worst team in baseball after the all star break.

I’m tired of hearing how it’s the players fault… that we don’t have any closers.  We had lots ways to close a game… how about just keeping your starting pitcher in when he has a hot hand?  Bochy pulled Matt Moore after the 8th even though he was throwing a 2 hitter!

Or how about using one of your other starting pitchers?  It was, after all, an ELIMINATION GAME.  Any of your starters would have gladly taken the ball… how about Samardzija?  Or Blach?   Heck, even Madison Bumgarner, who only threw 5 innings last night, would have picked up the ball in an instant.

Or how about letting a fresh Will Smith throw to more than one batter?  It’s so painfully clear that Bochy’s platooning style simply wasn’t working.

How about doing ANYTHING other than doing the same ineffective stuff over and over and over?!

This is the second most crushing loss in my five decades or so of being a Giants fan.

And — even harder to swallower — this one was eminently avoidable.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

I’d say FIVE blown leads in the 9th inning — using the same, completely ineffective bullpen management — qualifies.

I obviously — and painfully — misspoke in my “One Other Thing I Know” post below.  I want to say last night’s loss to the Dodgers — with the Giants winning by one run going into the bottom of the 9th — was a terrible, horrible gut punch…

… but, the truth is, it’s no worse than our other terrible, horrible, gut-punching 9th inning losses in September.

Giants Manager Bruce Bochy, sadly, is insane.

Why he pulled Madison Bumgarner in the 7th — with 10 strike-outs, no walks, and a ONE HITTER going — is beyond all baseball reasoning.

The fact that he won’t share his reasons why he did this — he offered all of:  “I said we talked. I’ll leave it at that.” — is simply an irresponsible cop-out.

Sorry, after the September he’s managed, we fans deserve more than that.

I’m only a fan.  But it seems pretty obvious to me that (1) the Giants don’t have a reliable bullpen, so (2) the Giants should have been playing September like we’re in sudden death — because WE ARE — so (3) they needed to use STARTERS to close games, and (4) Bochy needs to abandoned his ineffective bullpen platooning and if a reliever is getting the job done (like Smith was in the 8th inning), just let him keep throwing.  Duh!

Call a spade a spade:  Bochy may be a Hall of Fame manager, but he’s completely mismanaged the Giants down the stretch.

Boch, please get your stuff together before it’s too late!

When the Giants bullpen blew yet another save a few weeks back, I suggested that the Giants trash their entire bullpen and have starters close games.

After all, desperate times called for desperate measures.

Knowledgeable baseball people scoffed, however.

Two weeks ago the Giants looked to have a firm grasp on at least a wild card spot.

Then they blew FOUR 9TH INNING LEADS in about a dozen games.

Now, they’re barely hanging on to the last wild cards spot by a thread.

For those of you who aren’t baseball fans, that is a COLOSSAL, COLOSSAL fail.

Finally, Giants Manager Bruce Bochy got a clue… that he better play these last dozen or so games LIKE THEY’RE PLAYOFF GAMES… and he used a starter last night to close a game.

It wasn’t a save situation… the Giants were already down by 3 runs.  Still, it was nice to see an experienced hand take the ball… and shut the door.

Desperate times called for desperate measures.  That’s Management 101 and that should have been initiated two weeks ago.

Never too late, though, to do the right thing.

I hit a low point in my San Francisco Giants fan career.

The Giants were the best team in baseball before the All Star break.

And the worst after the break.

It’s been an oh-so-painful ride straight downhill.

I was watching the Giants-Mets game last night… tied in the 4th… the Giants Ace Madison Bumgarner on the mound… and with a 1-hitter going into the inning… somehow loaded the bases… and I thought to myself:

This is it.  This is the entire Giants season right now.  We have our best pitcher on the mound.  What team are we really… the before-the-All-Star-break team that will find a way to get out of this jam… or the after-the-All-Star-break team that will continue to get abused… ?  This next pitch will tell…

And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse… the very worst thing happens:  The batter hits a GRAND SLAM!

I’ve been a lifelong Giants fan… which means I’ve suffered my share of heartbreak…

… but that one was one for the ages.

I distinctly remembering at that very moment giving up hope for the season.  That’s NEVER happened to me before while there’s been a mathematical chance to win and a pulse left in my body.

I was dejected.  Heartbroken.  I turned off the game.

I climbed in my car 30 minutes later to hear the Giants announcer say something I will NEVER forget:

“After allowing 4 runs in the fourth, the Giants rally right back in the bottom of the inning to drop a 5-spot on the Mets and take the lead, capped off by none other than Madison Bumgarner’s two-run homerun.”

People thought I was crazy in my car…  it’s hard enough scoring 1 run in baseball, let alone 5 in the same inning… I was cheering and clapping unabashedly… just as if I were at the game!

Thank you, San Francisco Giants, for reminding me that until you are dead — no matter how improbable — there is ALWAYS HOPE!

I am not an NBA fan.

That’s not to say I’m not a big basketball fan… there is nothing more exciting than high school and college basketball.

But I don’t like the way it’s played on the professional level.  You don’t see teamwork.  You don’t see hustle.  All you see is self-promotion… and a complete flaunting of the basic rules of the game.  (When was the last time you saw a pro player called for traveling?  Never.  Exactly.)

But I was a big fan of the Golden State Warriors this year.

Because they played like no other NBA team.  They played with teamwork and hustle.  The played unselfishly.  In doing so they brought up the level of play from their opponents, making games fun to watch again.  In doing so they also won an NBA record 73 regular season wins.

Sadly the Warriors didn’t complete their magical season… losing Game 7 of the championship.

It’s only sports… but it matters to the Bay Area… we’re in shock… and mourning.

We’re swimming in a sea of “what if’s?”.  What if the Warriors didn’t lose their big man Andrew Bogut?  What if the Warriors were actually able to adjust to the obvious, that the Cavs were simply standing on the 3-point line taking away those shots, and that all the W’s had to do was simply take some easier/higher-percentage 2-point shots?  What if the officiating wasn’t completely and utterly against Step Curry?  What if the league didn’t job the Warriors and ridiculously suspend Draymond Green for Game 5 in an effort to balance out the series?  What if Klay Thompson had just apologized for wearing a f***ing Dodger cap to a Giants game?

I suspect we’ll be talking about this for a long time into the future.

But — while this may be premature — let me be the first to pick myself up off the canvas and start the chant:

“74… 74… 74… !”

Here’s to an incredibly deserving Warriors team AND 74 regular season wins next year AND a 2017 NBA Championship!

On Friday, June 10th the Golden State Warriors were up 3-1 in the championship series… a thoroughly dominant position to be in as no team in NBA history has every come back from a 1-3 deficit.

On Saturday, June 11th, Klay Thompson wore a f***ing Dodger cap to a SF Giants game.

The Warriors never won another game.

Coincidence?

I think not.

Even if his mom played for the Thunder, Buster Posey would never have worn an OKC cap to a Warriors home game.

Here’s an interesting piece from Rick Chandler of SportsGrid:

Go ahead and support your brother, Klay. But wearing a Dodgers hat in SF’s home yard? That’s not just blasphemy, that’s contrary to the laws of science and nature. Yes, Klay got booed at home two days before a potentially NBA title-clinching Game 5. If he doesn’t understand ancient time-honored Bay Area history and loyalties now, he never will. Hope he didn’t jinx things.

Very bumming about the Warriors getting smoked at home tonight.

Please, Klay, you are far too classy a guy… do the right thing.

 

Ugh.

I am a big fan of Klay Thompson.  He’s intelligent, well-spoken, and, clearly, a heck of a basketball player… responsible for seemingly single-handedly saving Golden State’s season on many occasions.

Unfortunately, I am now less of a Klay Thompson fan.

Last night the SF Giants played the f***ing LA Dodgers at AT&T Park.  Klay’s brother Trayce plays for the f***ing Dodgers.  Klay went to the Giants game last night to support his brother — which is obviously a very cool thing to do.

What isn’t cool is wearing — FLAUNTING — a f***ing LA Dodger’s baseball cap at a home Giants game.

Do you know how many times the f***ing Dodgers have broken our heart?

Now you’ve broken our heart, too… the heart of the very San Francisco fans that have so sincerely supported you these past few years.

You could have simply worn a cap with the word “Trayce” on it… fans would have appreciated your loyalty to your brother… and you not shoving a despised symbol in our faces.

Instead, you choose to be disrespectful.  You’re a professional athlete who presumably should know your own fan base.  Shame on you.

Sadly, I will be rooting just a little less loudly for you come Monday night.

Go Steph!  Go Draymond!  Go Iggy!  Go Bogey!  Go Harrison!  Go Shaun!  Go Mo!

Boo on you, Klay Thompson.

Please apologize so I know you are the classy athlete I thought you were and not someone absolutely clueless and hurtful.